These days it is easier than ever to create and upload a website to the web. Because of this, the competition to make your web page more discoverable by search engines is incredibly fierce.
This is why carrying out a regular SEO audit is essential.
Unseen problems with your SEO on and off your website could be causing you to lose out on rankings. It is important to carry out a full SEO audit every six months to a year to optimize your website.Please read our detailed guide below for more information on how to do an SEO audit on your site.
Tools for an SEO Audit
There are numerous paid tools that you can use for an SEO audit, including AHrefs, SEMrush Site Audit Tool, and Screaming Frog. All are great and offer lots of insights into your website’s SEO. All also offer some version of a free trial.
However, you can manually perform an audit with just the tools that Google provides for you. These include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Structured Data Testing Tool
With these tools in hand, it is time to start your SEO audit. We will look at each of the steps you need to perform to get the best results.
1. Make Sure Google Indexes ONE Version of Your Website
First, it is vitally important to make sure that Google can only index one version of your website to avoid duplication penalties. Duplicate sites can be easily created as there are several different ways to write a web address.
There are at least four options that you could choose to type into the browser.
Only one of these options must be available. Everything else must redirect to the canonical version. You can do this with a 301 redirect.
If someone tries to access your HTTP version of the site with the redirect in place, the redirect will automatically send them to the HTTPS version. To the user, nothing on the page will visually change except the URL in the browser.Redirecting to your HTTPS version of the site will increase trust with the search engines and give you a slight ranking increase in the SERPs.
2. Check to See If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
With over 90% of users accessing the internet via mobile devices, it is now essential to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly.
A non-mobile-friendly site will not display the web page elements as expected. You may find that buttons are not accessible or text becomes too small to read. All of this adds up to a poor searcher experience and will result in a penalty from the search engines.
If you go to Mobile-Friendly Test, you can insert the URL of the website you want to check, and the site will analyze your web page for you.If your site is not responsive across a good range of mobile devices, you need to invest in a mobile-friendly solution as soon as possible.
3. Confirm That Your Site Uses HTTPS
As we mentioned a little earlier, it is important to ensure that your site uses the secure internet protocol HTTPS.In HTTP, everything happens in plain text, which means anyone can intercept and read the data traveling between a user’s PC and your website. With HTTPS, the data is encoded and secure, and it is a ranking factor.
Once your site uses the HTTPS domain, you and all your visitors will see a little green padlock appear next to the domain name in the browser.
4. Check Google for Indexation Issues and Fix Them
If you are not indexed with Google, then you will not rank in the search engine results pages, plain and simple.Use Google itself to see your indexed pages in a live environment. Type site:yourdomainname.com into the search engine. It will return a search result of only the pages on your site that are indexed.
If it returns nothing, then you are receiving no organic traffic via the search engines. Check your robot.txt for any crawl blocks and remove any rogue noindex tags from page headers.
5. Speed Up Your Site
Site speed has been a Google ranking signal for a long time. Slow sites will frustrate users and provide poor search experiences. Faster sites will rank better in the SERPs.
Google has a PageSpeed Insights Tool to help you analyze any pages that are not performing as well as they should. There are other paid tools, such as Pingdom, which can also offer you further insights.
Once you identify your slow-loading pages, you need to set about refining the content and removing any buggy code or unoptimized images that may be causing the problem.
6. Find and Delete “Zombie Pages”
Zombie pages can take on many forms. They refer to pages with little to no traffic on your site, or that simply can not be indexed by the search engines.
Common page types include:
- WordPress category and tag pages
- Archive pages
- Thin content
- Irrelevant old press releases
- Boilerplate content (usually linked from the footer)
As you identify each of these pages in the Google Search Console, you need to decide whether to delete or improve them. If they are no longer offering any value to your site, it is best to remove them altogether.
7. Clean Up Your Sitemap
Your sitemap provides a small route finder around your website for both search engines and users. Search engines use them to identify which pages are the most important.
HTML sitemaps are for users to help them navigate their way around the site and are visually pleasing. Ensure that your sitemaps are easy to read and reflect the structure of your site. Landing pages should be clear for both users to identify and the crawlers.
8. Improve Your On-Page SEO
This one is big and should be the major part of your technical SEO audit checklist. However, it is likely impossible to optimize every page on your site in one go unless your site is quite small.
So, take your time and focus on the top five pages that your visitors see regularly. They could be pages that are already ranking quite well but have the potential to do much better.
Then focus on three main areas of improvement:
- ensure the page keyword is in the title tag and the first 100 words
- ensure that you have five internal and five external links on the page
- ensure you are targeting long-tail keywords
Just this small amount of on-page optimization has the potential to improve the ranking results. Apply this technique to as many pages as you can over time, and then you can track your ranking.
9. Check that Keyword Rankings are Heading in the Right Direction
Firstly, if you do not have a keyword rank tracking set up, you need to do this. Some great tools will provide the service. SEMrush is one of the better ones.
Set up your tool to track the keywords that you are targeting on your pages. Make sure that as you make changes to your on-page SEO that your rankings move upwards. If they don’t, then adjust your on-page strategies to adapt.
10. Analyze Your Backlink Profile
The backlinks that connect with your site are a top ten ranking factor. It has always been about the backlinks, ever since the first days of the Google algorithm. The more referring good quality domains you have, the better you will rank in the search engines.
So, your SEO audit checklist needs to include a review of your backlink profile. Again a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush will help greatly with this. Look at your Domain Authority. This is the number assigned to your site based on the number and quality of the links pointing at you.
Ensure you disavow any toxic links from sites with very low domain authority, as these will negatively impact your DA score. Remove the spammy links and try and cultivate as many top-quality links to your content as possible.
Good quality content will always attract backlinks, so focus on producing the most informative and useful content you can.
11. Fix Broken Links
Broken links will provide a poor user experience and cause the crawl to fail on parts of your website. Ensure that both internal and external links are still reaching their destination to ensure the link juice is flowing.
Screaming Frog is a great tool for finding broken links. You should be checking links on your website every month and fixing any that have broken.
12. Check for Duplicate and Thin Content
Thin content is any web page that is under 100 words. These pages will not index well with the search engines, and unless they provide outstanding user value, they should be removed or improved.
Try and make sure that your articles and blogs come to a minimum of 500 words. Also, check to make sure you are not repeating yourself just to boost your rankings. Google can easily spot duplicate content and will penalize the page.
Add a full content audit to your SEO audit checklist. You need to regularly review all the content on your site and ensure that it is the best possible. Look at what your competitors are writing about. Take the same content ideas but make your version 10x better by adding more insights and useful information.
SEO Audit Final Thoughts
Ranking a web page these days is fierce and competitive. You need to do everything you can to gain a competitive advantage over the thousands who may be offering the same services as you.
Creating great content is the first step, but you need to regularly run an SEO audit to check how your site is faring in the rankings.
If you would like help with running an SEO audit on your site and seeing the advantages it can provide, please check our services page to see how we can help you.